With his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post’s flags at half mast, Gaetano Rumore, a Vietnam veteran and commander of Post 5253 in Albertson, highlighted the significance of Memorial Day and the sacrifice of the soldiers who died in service of their country.
“We are here to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices,” Rumore said. “The fallen comrades, men and women, we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared the same qualities: courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity.”
Like communities across the nation, the Willistons, Mineola and Albertson each hosted their Memorial Day ceremonies Monday with Boy and Girl Scout troops, local elected officials, fire fighters and veterans. East Williston also hosted its annual Memorial Day 5k race.
About 125 people ran in the 5K, which is one of East Williston’s more popular events, organizer and former Trustee Caroline DeBenedittis said.
ollowing the race, the East Williston hosted a Memorial Day celebration and tribute on its green in front of Village Hall.
“It brings people together, especially on this occasion, for all those that have volunteered their own lives for their freedom,” DeBenedittis said. “It brings the community together as one and its nice to acknowledge those that have done this sacrifice.”
Isabella Rios, a seventh grader at Willets Road School, won the women’s division for the second-consecutive year. Rios said her primary goal, however, was to improve upon her time from last year, which she did by about 15 seconds.
“I was proud (that I won), but I was more proud that I improved my time,” she said.
Rios said that running on Memorial Day made the race all the more special.
Sixteen-year-old Zach Calabrese, a sophomore at Wheatley, won the men’s division in a decisive victory — something his track and cross country coach expected.
“It was nice to win because my coach told me he expected me to win,” Calabrese said. “It’s a fun race and everyone else did a great job, too — so keep running.”
Calabrese also said that holding the race on Memorial Day gave it added significance.
“The least I can do is come out and run this race in the morning when there are people out on the front lines for this country,” he said.
Prior to East Williston’s Memorial Day tribute, Williston Park held a ceremony behind the American Legion Post 144, at 730 Willis Ave., with a short memorial service for veterans who have died in the past year while the Boy Scouts, fire department and residents looked on.
Three veterans of the post fired rifles in salute to the soldiers.
DeBenedittis said East Williston and Williston Park intentionally stagger their events so people can attend both ceremonies.
Hundreds of people representing dozens of groups marched in the Mineola Memorial Day parade, which started at 11 a.m. following a ceremony in which the Mineola Fire Department reads the names of all the firefighters who have died.
Local officials, including Mayor Scott Strauss, state Sen. Jack Martins, assemblymembers Michelle Schimel and Ed Ra, North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Town Clerk Wayne Wink, and Receiver of Taxes Charles Berman, attended the ceremony to pay tribute to the soldiers who had died.
Martins offered his thanks to the veterans who served the country and to those who gave their lives defending its freedom.
Many of the same officials, as well as state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and North Hempstead Councilman Peter Zuckerman, attended the Albertson Ceremony, which began at 9 a.m. Monday in front of VFW Post 5253
The parade featured the Herricks marching band, the Albertson fire department riding in their trucks and the members of VFW Post 5253, among others and paid tribute to fallen fire fighters as well.
“Your presence here today is a tribute to our lost troops and their families and shows that we appreciate their sacrifice,” Rumore said at the ceremony. “From the shivering soldiers at Valley Forge, to the doughboys in the muddy trenches of France, the fighters of Korea to the platoon patrolling the jungles of Vietnam, Gulf War warriors and to the troops patrolling the deserts and mountains of Iraq (and) Afghanistan, we remember and honor all of these brave men.”